KARACHI: Three senior players are in the run for national captaincy following Zeeshan Ashraf’s decision to skip the forthcoming Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Malaysia next month.
Former captains Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi along with penalty-corner specialist Sohail Abbas are likely candidates for the captain’s arm-band but the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) is not in a hurry to appoint Ashraf’s successor just yet. “The new captain may be named during the selection committee meeting on April 28 when the trials to select an 18-member squad are held,” the PHF Secretary Asif Bajwa told The Express Tribune.
On the other hand, the newly-appointed coach Khwaja Junaid said that the captain would be picked from one of the seniors. “The captain will be named by the PHF in consultation with the selectors and the team management,” said Junaid, who was appointed as coach for the Azlan Shah Cup following the sacking of the entire team management after the Hockey World Cup in India. “Before naming the captain, we’ll check his attitude towards the players and his qualities that are essential for a leader to have.” Naming one of the seniors as captain, according to Junaid, will not start a tug-of-war among other seniors and will maintain the harmony that a team needs.
Chief selector Hanif Khan said that hockey was different from cricket, where the captain is usually announced before the commencement of a camp, a practice that is seldom followed nowadays. He maintained that a hockey coach had a much bigger role than a cricket captain and while the coach prepares the game plan in the dressing room, it was the captain that implements it in the field. Khan also advised the PHF to appoint the new captain not just for the Azlan Shah Cup but for all matches and tournaments until the Asian Games that will be held in November later this year.
Despite the seniors looking odds-on to get the captain’s arm-band in Ashraf’s absence, sources in the PHF have also added that team vice-captain Muhammad Imran is also in the line for the slot and may even be elevated to the captain’s post.